You’ve probably never heard of Phil Hay, who up until recently was the Yorkshire Evening Post’s Leeds United correspondent.
With ‘long-suffering’ part of the job description, during his farewell piece he again nailed the zeitgeist by summing up the Yorkshire football club’s fractious relationship towards the British public with: ‘An astonishing number of people despise Leeds United or what Leeds United stand for. But this club was never made for them.’
Much to their own bemusement, opinion on the Kaiser Chiefs is also polarised, if not to those extremes. After their commercial peak with three-million-selling debut Employment and its successor Yours Truly, Angry Mob, the quintet have found inventive ways to remain in the light since, from Ricky Wilson’s stint on The Voice to having their last album, 2016’s Stay Together, co-produced by Xenomania guru Brian Higgins.
Listened to in full, Stay Together was unquestionably a Chiefs record, but this opening up of new possibilities left some established fans vexed and the band’s critics free to scoff, accusations flying of change for change’s sake. Not many groups have the luxury now of ruminating over a difficult seventh album, but given the past the stakes were high.
True, there were lucrative options available to bus it round the country phoning in greatest hits sets, but nobody wanted that: forcing their own backs against the wall, it was time to identify either as a going concern or become heritage circuit cabaret.
Duck is the Kaiser Chiefs collectively answering that exam question with an energetically renewed sense of purpose. One of the main reasons for this is the re-emergence of Wilson as the brash, ringleader persona of past glories, flitting between croon and chant effortlessly on opener People Know How To Love One Another, the cheeky sprite act of old then fully reincarnated for Golden Oldies.
With one mojo fully rediscovered, all that remained for everyone else was the straightforward task of writing some of the best songs of their careers, new anthems decked out with familiarly uplifting thumps, riffs and hooks, from the handclaps and boyish harmonies of Electric Heart, Record Collection’s indie funk strut to Wait’s brassy takedown of our need to be validated by the attention of strangers.
So wholly was this mission accepted that there’s only closer Kurt v Frasier (The Battle for Seattle) which fails to really gel, but with the band channelling their inner Rick Springfield they deliver Lucky Shirt, local lads gone panoramically stadium rock and as vibrant as anything they’ve produced in more than a decade.
So undeniably a return to peak as this is, there are things Duck isn’t: with the world held in the grip of a divisive mania it’s a bold attempt to avoid empty rhetoric and drag the conversation back down to a human level, at its core the belief that we can all still get along.
Some people still won’t like the Kaiser Chiefs and probably never will, but this record wasn’t made for them – just everyone else.